RACING

McLaughlin beats Palou, Power takes third place

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The first start was canceled as the second half of the grid was still tense as the leaders exited Turn 2, since IndyCar racing begins in Mid-Ohio on the long “straight” that stretches from Turn 2 to Turn 4.

From pole, Pato O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet got off to a good start ahead of Scott McLaughlin’s Penske-Chevrolet team, while Felix Rosenqvist, the primary starter, immediately rounded Colton’s Andretti Autosport-Honda Herta to take third and threaten McLaughlin. , who held him off, while Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud finished fifth and sixth.

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Next time out, Palou threatened Pagenaud, as Kyle Kirkwood moved his AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy ahead of Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas with HMD-Honda, despite being on primary tyres. Further back, Will Power’s day went from bad to worse, as he pushed Takuma Sato’s Coyne car and spun around at Turn 9, falling to the back of the field.

Up front, O’Ward was not escaping McLaughlin, only a second ahead on lap 8, while teammate Rosenqvist did a good job in third on his main tyres, 0.8 seconds behind. McLaughlin, 0.8 seconds ahead of Herta. However, on the next lap, the immensely unlucky Swede’s car suddenly slowed down Turn 2 and the #7 AMSP-Chevy expired, and although he slid through Turn 4, the car came to a stop there, with its driver visibly and audibly gutted displaying the first DNF of the day. Under the ensuing warning, Graham Rahal, Power and Jack Harvey pitted, both RLL cars took Firestone replacements, while Power replaced their primaries with primaries. On the restart, Power would pass Rahal and Jimmie Johnson.

The Lap 11 restart saw six-time Mid-Ohio winner Dixon round Herta to move into third, and the AA rider had to work hard to joust hard with Pagenaud to hold on to fourth. Malukas took advantage of his reds warming up faster than the Kirkwood primaries to overtake rival Indy Lights 2021 and earn seventh place. In race nine, Alexander Rossi, pressing Kirkwood, with Callum Ilott completing the Top 10 ahead of Josef Newgarden and Rinus VeeKay who were both in primary.

Newgarden and VeeKay stopped at the end of lap 23 and emerged in 23rd and 24ewhile Romain Grosjean pitted his Andretti Autosport-Honda next time out, Palou and Helio Castroneves pitted on lap 25, and Malukas, Rossi and Ilott did the same on lap 26.

In the lead, O’Ward was just 0.77 seconds ahead of McLaughlin, Dixon just 1.1 seconds behind and Herta just 0.9 seconds behind the Ganassi driver. After 29 laps O’Ward and Dixon pitted, with McLaughlin and Marcus Ericsson and Power pitting the next time. However, that was just before race control issued a full-course warning as Kirkwood, who had just stopped to switch from primaries to alternates, had derailed and stopped at Turn 9.

The big beneficiary of the undercut, stopping four laps ahead of O’Ward and Dixon, was Palou, who had battled another set of Firestone reds, put in blistering laps and jumped to second place, behind McLaughlin whose crew Penske #3 had it. ahead of O’Ward, who was now third ahead of Herta, Dixon and fellow early stoppers Newgarden and VeeKay.

Power, who had legitimately gone up to 18e previously, but has now moved up six more places.

On the restart of Lap 36, McLaughlin – now on the toughest primaries – slipped out of Turn 2, the Keyhole hairpin, which allowed Palou to close but before he could attempt to making a pass, caution flew again as Harvey ran Foyt Racing’s AJ Dalton Kellett off the track at the Keyhole. It didn’t happen until Rossi passed Malukas for 10e.

The next restart on lap 40, saw Dixon defend fifth place from Newgarden so hard at turn 4, that the two failed to notice that VeeKay was carrying so much more momentum into turn 5, and the daring ECR-driver Chevy drove outside of Newgarden and Dixon at turn 6 to earn fifth. His charge wouldn’t end there either, as O’Ward was struggling with an engine problem – possibly due to fuel supply problems. O’Ward would lose to Dixon and Newgarden in round 44 and Marcus Ericsson in round 45.

Power also made big progress who, after the last restart, demoted Malukas, Pagenaud and Rossi to ninth place. That became eighth as a crippled O’Ward continued to descend down the field.

On lap 50 of 80 McLaughlin, tired of the primary, had a one second lead over Palou (reds), Herta ran 2 seconds further with a 4 second advantage over VeeKay who had taken a few seconds advantage over Dixon .

Newgarden stopped at the end of lap 52 as the next pit window opened and grabbed a set of new replacements. To cover the potential clearance, and in response to an impending yellow flag for Tatiana Calderon running off the track at Turn 4, the rest of the leaders also backed out. Herta, however, stayed out and his race was now ruined as he would lose several places as the field was bunched up and the pits closed.

Pit stops saw McLaughlin exit ahead of Palou with Power ahead of Newgarden, while O’Ward and Ilott exited with engine trouble.

On the restart, Palou pressured McLaughlin and Power passed VeeKay for fourth at Turn 4, while teammates Rossi and Grosjean came together at Turn 2 and pulled out another caution. Beneath that yellow, Herta stopped and gave up. After the restart he would be pushed back at Turn 2 by Grosjean, who was then offended when Rossi dived into his inside again. Grosjean (for the collision with Herta) and Rossi (for later pushing another teammate, Devlin DeFrancesco at Turn 6) would serve passing penalties.

The restart on Lap 63 saw Palou drop a wheel from Turn 1, but kept it all together to easily hold off Power until Turn 2. Behind Power – the lead rider on alternate tires – VeeKay held off Scott Dixon – who was closely pursued by Ericsson and Newgarden. Then came Castroneves, who passed Malukas, and his teammate Pagenaud to move into eighth place. With 10 laps to go, the top three were a second behind, with VeeKay 3 seconds further.

The battle up front was a stalemate, with Palou burning his boost to catch McLaughlin, but McLaughlin had enough in hand to keep him at bay, just like in their battle for the lead in the season opener at Saint PETERSBOURG. Their battle took them about three seconds ahead of Power who was now nursing his red tires and retaining his own push-to-pass he had used so much in the opening laps.

McLaughlin crossed the line 0.5512 seconds ahead of Palou to claim his second IndyCar win in superbly composed fashion, taking Penske’s win total at Mid-Ohio to 12, one ahead of Ganassi.

Power delivered a third-place finish from 21st on the grid – from 27e in the first round – nearly 20 points behind championship leader Ericsson, who finished just behind Dixon and just ahead of Newgarden. VeeKay could settle for a good fourth, especially after his superb pass from Dixon and Newgarden.

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